Business

Transporters Warn of Effects of COVID-19 Measures on Food Supply

European logistics firms fear the quarantine measures and bureaucratic hurdles, while consumer demand keeps growing.

Apr. 2, 2020
By Paolo DeAndreis

The COVID-19 con­tain­ment mea­sures cou­pled with uncer­tain­ties among the trans­porters have been slow­ing down inter­na­tional trade and food sup­plies in Italy.

The com­pany I work for based in Roma­nia warned me and my col­leagues that some oper­a­tions could be halted at any time.- Nico Balan, a Roman­ian trans­porter liv­ing in cen­tral Italy

Olive oil bot­tlers are strug­gling to ensure that imports will be reach­ing their fac­to­ries in the com­ing weeks to meet the demand.

Many Euro­pean logis­tics work­ers expressed fears that com­ing to Italy could put them in quar­an­tine upon return­ing to their own coun­tries. New safety mea­sures and addi­tional doc­u­men­ta­tion requests have been tak­ing their toll on olive oil and other cru­cial food imports.

See more: COVID-19 Cov­er­age

The Ital­ian fed­er­a­tion of the food and bev­er­age indus­try, Fed­er­al­i­mentare, warned that things must change quickly.

We were among the first ones to point out that ques­tion about the for­eign trans­porters, many of whom did not want to come to Italy,” said the fed­er­a­tion’s pres­i­dent, Ivano Vacon­dio. The sit­u­a­tion has now started to change since we are not the only ones in Europe to suf­fer the effects of the COVID-19 epi­demic any­more.”

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Part of the prob­lem lies with the fact every Euro­pean coun­try has inde­pen­dently decided its own con­tain­ment mea­sures and its own approach to COVID-19.

Some work­ers fear they could be caught in the mid­dle of chang­ing poli­cies while on the road away from their coun­tries.

The com­pany I work for based in Roma­nia warned me and my col­leagues that some oper­a­tions could be halted at any time,” Nico Balan, a Roman­ian trans­porter liv­ing in cen­tral Italy explained to Olive Oil Times. Some of my col­leagues based in Roma­nia still fear quar­an­tine actions once they go back.”

Uneasi­ness has spread among food sup­ply-related work­ers. That is why the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, Vacon­dio said, has now threat­ened penal­ties for any inter­fer­ence with the free cir­cu­la­tion of goods within the E.U. as it is defined and reg­u­lated by the cur­rent treaties.

Just hours ago, the United Nations and the World Trade Orga­ni­za­tion warned of pos­si­ble slow­downs in inter­na­tional food sup­ply lines because of con­tain­ment mea­sures and panic buy­ing. Uncer­tainty about food avail­abil­ity can spark a wave of export restric­tions, cre­at­ing a short­age on the global mar­ket,” the heads of the global agen­cies wrote.

The major Ital­ian trans­port and logis­tics asso­ci­a­tions have writ­ten to the Ital­ian gov­ern­ment to demand quick action on sev­eral bureau­cratic hur­dles that they believe hin­der the free flow of goods.

Those prob­lems stem from the sus­pen­sions of ser­vices that occurred with the COVID-19 lock­down includ­ing dif­fi­cul­ties in updat­ing trans­port doc­u­ments or dri­vers’ per­mits, as well as the avail­abil­ity of rest and ser­vice areas on the high­ways since many have closed down.

Fed­er­al­i­mentare esti­mates a 20- to 30-per­cent loss of rev­enue for the indus­try in the first month of quar­an­tine.

Thanks to the strong growth of domes­tic expen­di­tures on food we could limit dam­ages deriv­ing from the bar and restau­rant shut­downs, but we can­not become inat­ten­tive on the import side. Even the most orga­nized sup­ply chains have raw mate­ri­als stocked in their ware­houses that will not last more than a cou­ple of weeks,” Vacon­dio said.

Italy is heav­ily depen­dent on olive oil imports both to meet the domes­tic demand and to pro­vide Ital­ian mar­keters enough prod­uct for their inter­na­tional oper­a­tions.

The lat­est data from the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture puts Ital­ian olive oil stocks at 264,000 tons, with just above 170,000 tons of Ital­ian ori­gin. With the spike in sales recorded in Italy and other Euro­pean coun­tries since the begin­ning of the COVID-19 emer­gency, requests for olive oil prod­ucts are now set to grow.


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